Putting the legs on vision. Making it scalable, sustainable and enduring

There are some people who embrace change and others have change thrust upon them.

There are a few who are visionary leaders, some who put legs on vision, others who are swept along and a handful who doggedly hang onto the status quo.

Which are you?

I’m one of the people ‘who put legs on vision’. Great vision inspires me to action, then, as I look around I can see:

  • Obstacles to overcome
  • Systems to set up
  • Mindsets that need changing
  • Policies to develop
  • Spaces to change
  • Tough conversations to be had
  • People to encourage

Each of these creates the context that helps the vision becomes reality.

Change needs more than a great leader. It needs a concerted, coordinated and sustained reworking of multiple work systems. (Shea and Solomon, 2013)

‘Systems’, not a particularly exciting word, but unless the vision is surrounded by good policy and systems it won’ be scalable, sustainable and enduring.

Think about the vision that motivates you to action. Imagine a scene that encapsulates the ‘vision to reality’. If you are in education, maybe it looks like this:

2011-03-03_0088The learning space is busy, active and productive. Teachers and students are co-workers. One teacher is alongside a student explaining a concept, another taking a small group in an instructional session. You see a group of students are working together on a project together, excitedly sharing and forming ideas.

There is engagement, it is highly relational and academically rigorous. A community of engaged, motivated and inspired learners.

How do you put legs on your vision?

Have a plan to develop systems, behaviours and attitudes that  are consistent with the vision. A vision without a plan is a dream. It will remain in your head and reach a dead-end. A plan gives direction and grounds the vision in reality. It generates action.

Remember the scene in your mind? Think about it in terms of these eight areas that will keep it moving forward. They are the patterns of behaviour that become the levers for change.

Organisation: Identify the most effective leadership structure that directs, guides and values people. Can the current leadership structure be adapted for the vision or is a new one required?

Place: Establish the physical and virtual environment that maximises productivity, learning and creativity. Can the scene be achieved in the current spaces? Does the furniture work? How does your virtual space serve the vision?

Task: Articulate what the ‘work’ actually looks like. How will this be explained, supported and modelled?

People: Find the right people and equip them. What do the people need to learn, relearn and unlearn?

Motivation: Facilitate an environment that keeps your people motivated and on track – rewards and consequences. How will you recognise and reward embracing the vision and ‘having a go’?

Measurement: Measure what matters. What are the top five areas that matter to the vision?

Communication: Think through and articulate who is responsible for communicating what. How will you manage the message?

Decisions: Authority and authorisations that enable not disable, that bring clarity not confusion. What are the levels of responsibility for complexity of decisions to be made?

Your plan guides strategy.  A vision is not the past nor the present – it represents the future. It’s new, scary and unknown. The only way change will endure is through addressing the work systems that surround the vision.

Shea and Solomon identified these eight elements that represent the essential areas to the plan. Each of these points can be further articulated and developed. If you are committed to your vision, believe in it and do whatever it takes to make it happen. Here is a starting point.

@anneknock

Why innovate? Answer inspired by Ghandi ‘Serving the unserved’

Lasting innovation comes from identifying and responding to need – human need.

We are often reminded that people in developing nations are amazing innovators – living, that is staying alive, on less than $1 per day. Ghandi is known as a liberator and revolutionary of his people, yet he approached the issues of tackling the British colonization with the mindset of an innovator.

While I have been travelling over the last few weeks I re-watched Sir Ken Robinsons 2006 and 2010 TED Talks to see how was are tracking since this call to educational change. I had already come to the conclusion that we need both a top down and bottom up approach to change in education. Sadly, we haven’t come far too far in changing the minds of the policy-makers. Standardized tests and the focus on academic intelligence as the primary measure remains, and this still needs significant work. But simultaneously we need to keep activating at the grass roots of education.

Ghandi faced the problem of British colonization through inspiring innovation in the day-to-day lives of the people, a simple idea that would bring change. Britain controlled the textile industry in India. Heavy machinery was used to make cloth from cotton and silk. But what if ordinary people could make their own cloth? This was the inspiration behind the Box Charkha. A portable (and inexpensive) spinning wheel used for spinning cotton and silk into thread. A small idea, with big consequences.

This simple innovation, inspired by Ghandi was then developed, made into reality, by his colleague. The Box Charkha made it possible for ordinary Indian people to ‘compete with modern industrialization by creating mass individual modernization.’ (Sawhney)

Ghandi’s approach to innovation had two key elements. It needed to be affordable and sustainable. Similarly in education, we need not always assume that to be innovative, there needs to be significant funds attached, but begin as Ghandi did, making important changes at the grass roots, he was able to to more with less. His focus was improving the life of his people, giving them the tools to be able to break from the constraints of British colonization.

Learning from Ghandi there are a few things to consider in getting innovation right

How do we serve the unserved?

Does the vision have a strong human dimension?

Are our goals and milestones too safe?

How do we use constraints to expand our creative capacity?

Are we measuring the right stuff?

Who are we doing this for?

‘Today, technology can be a similar equalizer in our search for economic development or innovation, provided these technologies function to empower the individual.’ (Sawhney)

A synthesis of Ghandi’s innovation applied to education
1. Disrupt existing business models – alter the way schools ‘do business’
2. Modify existing capabilities – break down subject hierarchies and silos, work together
3. Create and source new capabilities – look beyond usual boundaries for input, expertise and ideas

When faced with innovation, there are only two choices
Leverage existing resources in new ways
Change the rules of the game entirely

The choice we make depends on the context. But like Ghandi, if we are passionate enough about educational change, we need to make a start. I was initially discouraged after watching Ken Robinson’s TED Talks to see how little governments have changed, but I know at the grass roots, so many of us who are committed to making schools and education better and more relevant to our young people.

So at the outset of 2013, be encouraged and keep the flame for innovation and change burning. Be inspired by revolutionaries of the past, who, while they were in the thick of it probably doubted the difference they were making.

References
Quotes: What Ghandi, yes Ghandi, taught me about design, leadership and technology, Ravi Sawhney

Model of innovation: ‘Innovation’s Holy Grail’ C.K. Prahalad and R.A. Mashelkar
HBR, July 2010

10 [educational] New Year Resolutions for your 2013

New Year resolutions provide an opportunity to press the reset button on life.

fireworks

So here is a start for thinking about how you will step into 2013 and make some changes.

10. I will discover new ways of achieving the same outcome. One first step to reinventing learning is to think of new ways to both deliver content and for students to respond. Do you still think it is ‘harder’ to write an essay than build a model to demonstrate understanding?

9. I will learn from my students. Find out how young people navigate life. The reality is, they social media rather than email. What’s the most effective way to get your message to your students?

8. I will team up. No lone rangers anymore. One of the most significant images of school is the single teacher, up the front of the room facing the students. This model of teaching/learning bears little resemblance to the real world of work and learning. What could happen if you shared space, time and ideas with your colleagues? What would the students see and learn?

7. I will release control. Think about your most powerful learning experiences.  The things I have learnt deeply have often stemmed from a problem that needed a solution. ‘Just in time’ learning sticks more than ‘Just in case’. What areas do you need to release in order for your students to drive and own their learning?

6. I will develop coaching skills. When students take responsibility for learning the role of the teacher changes. The coach helps the learner to identify and achieve their own goals. These skills take time and practice to develop and directly relate to releasing control. How will you develop coaching skills?

5. I will get out of my comfort zone and build a wider network. Either electronically, through social media, locally through event/opportunities like TeachMeets; and/or travel. Connecting with people outside your everyday world changes perspectives. What’s your next step to widening your network?

4. I will consider the visual impact of content delivery. We are visual. For effective communication in the 21stC the visuals matter. Great visuals can easily convey a message and effectively make complex information simple. Some of us glaze over when we hit a wall of text. Visuals cut through this. How can your communication become more visually engaging?

3. I will change the space. When the media reports on school issues they look for photos to support the article. These are usually –  children at desks in rows, chalkboard with words and sums, teacher standing at the front – you get the picture. New ways of working need new spaces. These default images of school will only change if we change the spaces. What are some subtle changes and not-so-subtle changes you can make to your physical working space?

2. I will get mobile. Left to our own devices, we are creatures of habit we go to the same way, sit in the same place and connect with the same people. Working in cross-disciplinary teams opens new ideas and approaches. Where do you need to go or relocate?

1. I have chosen this career because I want to make a difference to the lives and futures of young people. Schools, as was recently expressed to me, are not “mortgage paying institutions”, nor are they our lifestyle-facilitators. Are you in this career for the kids first?

@anneknock

Leaders, Change school education in four easy steps (As if it were that simple!)

When it comes to rethinking school education I can be overwhelmed at the task and get stuck , or I can do something. The choice to take action is always the best course, but I need to be realistic about the change that is possible. I could look at our government education policy and give up at the complexity of bringing change, or I can start tweaking my own environment, increase influence and then maybe one day, feel that I can affect change in a much broader way.

Change that begins at a local level and grows outward has a much greater chance of sticking.

But how do we know the difference?

In my own life I filter ideas and passions into two categories, articulated by Stephen Covey:

  • Circle of Influence
  • Circle of Concern

 

It’s as simple as this diagram. Within the broader sphere of my passions and drivers in life, there are many things that need to change, be developed and to grow and there are also obstacles that should to be dismantled.

While, important, some elements of these are presently not within my sphere of influence, such:

  • national assessments
  • renewing teacher education
  • ubiquitous access to technology for all students.

I have opinions, if asked, and would love to one day be in a position that I can influence in these areas, so at the moment, they are in my ‘Circle of Concern’. In the meantime, I am focussing on growing my ‘Circle of Influence’. I have found that the areas where I can affect change are usually begins locally or within my network.

‘Leadership is Influence’.

The best way to grow lasting change is to grow your leadership.

I’m definitely not an expert on all schools and every context, but there are a few common areas in which to begin thinking about the future of school and education. Why? So that schools will engage, equip and inspire young people for a bright and purposeful future. The deeper you think about these, the less school of the future will look like school of the past, and the present.

This is what you need to do:

  1. Build vision for the future: Where are you going?

Then think about what of these look like in the context of the vision:

  1. Build capacity in the present: What do your people need to get there?
  1. Shape the learning:  What does the pedagogy need to look like?
  1. Shape the space: Where will learning take place? (Hint: think virtual as well as physical spaces)

So instead of being overwhelmed by the enormity of change and the complexity of today’s socio-political context, why not start locally in each of these areas.

She stepped back and replied, “You’re not one of those schools-with-no-walls, are you?” Who gets it and who doesn’t.

We talk about our passions, they just come up in conversations. sometimes we don’t even realise.

On the weekend I briefly met a young woman in her 20s who turned out to be English teacher from an inner London Academy. Once she heard about my work and why I was in the UK she stepped back and replied, “You’re not one of those schools-with-no-walls, are you?”. To her, the prospect of open space, students owning their learning and no longer teaching from the front sounded like a nightmare.

As an observer of people I take note of responses when I talk about what I do and tell them about  Northern Beaches Christian School in Sydney. I anticipate reactions, quite often from non-educators: “I wish there was a school like that for [insert name/me].” From educators, It seems that they are polarised in the response, either love it or hate it.

A little later on the same day over lunch I was sharing this story and telling some non-educator friends about what I believe about learning. They got it. Project Based Learning, flipped learning, choice, personalised approaches and comfortable surroundings made sense because they knew too many people who have been let down and alienated by conventional schooling.

Many of my peers, whose children are now adults, often tell of those who felt disconnected from school. They were either creative in the performing and visual arts, or were just not that conventional. My friends could see how the open and flexible spaces, focus on learning and the learner and the opportunity to develop an individual’s strengths would make a difference.

I am travelling alone at the moment so its easy and fascinating to eavesdrop conversations at restaurants while I stick my nose in a book. At the next table a father and daughter were discussing the preparation year for the final GCSE exams to come. After they talked about study and a whole range of things the dad said, “you need a strategy for the last 15 minutes of the paper. Work out how you will answer the multiple choice questions that you won’t get to, within the  limited time. Have a plan, just do A, B, B, C, C, C, D…” or something like that. Obviously, the purpose of the assessment was to maximise marks, and not show learning. This dad didn’t get it because the school system doesn’t get it (because maybe the government doesn’t get it).

Educators generally seem to be polarised on the subject. Whether it’s because open learning had (apparently) been tried and then failed in the 1970s or they are skeptical about opening up the spaces, giving freedom and embracing a different role. Just like the young teacher I met, monumental change just feels impossible.

On the other hand, there is a growing tribe of devotees to a new paradigm for school. Like us, they have seen young people switched onto learning, the significance of the high stakes relationships between the teacher and student and the quality of work that the student’s achieve. Assessment becomes a meaningful part of learning.

What would help the young English teacher change her paradigm?

  • Constantly challenging the conventional wisdom of what is a school
  • Shake-up pre-service teacher education
  • Provide meaningful, challenging and continuous in-service PD
  • Rethink assessment processes
  • Grow courageous leaders who are prepared to challenge the status quo
  • Commitment to doing both: meeting government standards and changing the paradigm
  • Provide conditions for teachers to work together, rather than in isolation

I explained to my new friend that this is a process. Obviously we can’t just push out the walls, throw in the kids and the teachers together and hope for the best. There must be support, encouragement, challenge and time. However, none of these things will work unless there is vision to show the way forward.

Coined the term ‘pedagogic nostalgia’ referring to those who long for how school was once. Let’s help them change.

We had a great time today talking learning, schools and education with some forward thinking principals from a rural area in our state. As I was talking I used the term ‘pedagogic nostalgia’, referring to the way many parents long for, either, the education they had or the one they dream of for their kids. There is a journey we need to take our parents on, to help them understand that their default ‘picture’ of school needs to change.

I remembered an opinion piece I was asked to write for our major daily, in the education section.

I’m not sure if I shared it here, but maybe we can help the community move from nostalgia to reality, for our kid’s sake.

———————————————————-

Learning to move with the times
Technology has opened the doors to a whole new world of educational experiences.

My son attended Newtown High School of the Performing Arts. He would leave early or come home late depending on whether he had stage band, concert band, string ensemble, orchestra or choir. During his time there, he had so many opportunities: he enjoyed school, he had teachers who understood creative types and he had friends who were passionate about school.

I was grateful for this opportunity for my son, especially as he now pursues a career in music. As an educator, I wondered, ”What if every young person had this opportunity? What if there were a school for every interest and passion of every young person?” Of course, this is impossible but what if every school were a place where the spark of learning could be ignited inside each student?

My son’s story is in contrast with that of the comedian Eddie Perfect’s experience and those of other well-known Australians, as told in Don’t Peak at High School: From Bullied to A-list, edited by Fiona Scott-Norman.

Perfect recalls, ”I was always creative and wanted to be successful and do something unique but none of that was ever recognised at school. . . . It worries me. I think high school is getting so career focused. They want to form you and then send you off in a particular direction.”

This sense of disengagement is felt by young people when their passions and interests do not necessarily line up with what the broader community might value as part of a school education.

Now, technology can make any school a specialist school. It requires key ingredients such as flexible school design, personalised curriculum, equipped, passionate and supported professionals, vision-led leadership and a parent community that accepts school today needs to look and feel quite different from their experiences.

The kindergarten child of 2011 was born in 2006. If her parents were 30 when she was born, they probably left school about 1994. So much of our world has changed since then. Technology and the internet have shifted the game and the school life this kindergarten child has begun should prepare her for a world to come, rather than a world that has been.While not playing down the importance of literacy and numeracy, young people are now taught practical skills as they need them, rather than learning everything ”just in case”.

So the essential skills of the 21st century schools include collaboration, problem-solving, analytical thinking, creativity and resilience. These skills can be more effectively taught and modelled in a school that should look and feel significantly different from the experience of one teacher and 30 students locked in a room all day learning from texts that will need to be reprinted in a couple of years.

Outside the school gate, our young people experience a dynamic, innovative and creative world, yet so often it is a foreign environment. Many educators are now passionate about transforming schools; they are questioning the relevance of the accepted processes of assessment and delivery of content. They are not seeking to transform schools to make their job better or easier; they believe if they are to engage young people as learners then schools must be radically different.

Nostalgia often paints a picture of the school that parents may seek for their children. This picture can be informed by happy memories or the sense that ”it didn’t do me any harm”, to which I want to reply, ”how do you know*”.

———————————————————-
* this part was changed by the editor to: “maybe it did”. I preferred the original.

Are governments just polishing the chrome on the 1965 vehicle, when we need to design a new hybrid model?

Over the past few years ‘education’ in the media followed politicians announcing large-scale projects.

The Australian Government’s 2009 GFC stimulus package, ‘Building the Education Revolution’, was more of a building program and the 2007 ‘Digital Education Revolution’ (Year 9 1:1 laptop program) was an election promise that seemed to misunderstand the future technology needs for schools and students.

In my opinion, neither of these programs thought deeply about the future and preparing young people. This week in my state, due to funding announcements, schools, education and teachers are, once again, hot topics.

In the minds of politicians it seems that despite everything happening in the world around us, a veil of nostalgia covers the eyes of our policy-makers, they see school education as it was and this then reinforces how it should be.

As result, when it comes to the public debate, the discourse doesn’t seems to be generated by ideas around what do our kids really need to succeed into their future, but about to PISA rankings and funding models. It’s the cart before the horse.

PISA rankings – Much of what we read from the US about the testing regime and its inherent problems stemmed from a noble-sounding policy – No Child Left Behind. Sounds good, but how do you determine achievement of the goals? Teaching to the test, testing and more testing.

If Australia’s ability to compete in the markets in our region is dependent on our PISA ranking in reading, maths and sciences, we are destined to head down the same track.

There are a number of other essential skills that young people need. What is the measure for innovation, creativity and entrepreneurial activity?

Funding models – At the core of equity in education is the provision of adequate funds to do the job. Unlike many other countries, non-government schools in Australia, representing faiths, ideologies and cultures, attract proportional government funds. These come from the both the state and federal coffers and are, at the time of writing, under significant review.

I am an advocate for equitable funding, but I believe we are coming at this from the wrong angle. It seems, whenever we talk about education reform in this country, the debate immediately moves to funding.

What if we identified the elements of a good education that a child today needs, determine what funding is required, and then carve up the pie.

Start with the child and design a new future.

Design-thinking doesn’t just tinker with the current model, provide add-ons or paint it a new colour. It looks at the problem from a fresh perspective, frames and reframe the burning question, arranged and rearranges the elements, develops models and then refines them.

At the moment the politicians and regulatory authorities are painting and polishing the old model. Our state minister for education asked in a news article over the weekend, ‘Why are kids listening to their iPod and not their teacher’ – the reality in 2012 is that maybe they are doing both.

Wholesale change is unsettling, but necessary. Many of us feel that we are actually designing a new hybrid vehicle for education, while our politicians are polishing the 1965 Kingswood/Edsel/Vauxhall. For example: Why are we still measuring the delivery of a high school courses by calculating the hours taught? This focusses on the teacher/teaching, rather than the learner/learning.

The only way to re-invent, rethink and renew is to come at the problem from a new perspective. We must envision what doesn’t yet exist and reframe the problem. If we keep polishing the chrome on the old vehicle we will increasingly alienate and disengage young people from that wonderful world of learning.

@anneknock

I think the time has come to stop using the term 21st Century [education context] & become authentic #RIP21stC

It has been the passionate rallying call for change in education for more than a decade and has challenged many of us to rethink the context and culture of learning in this century as significantly different from the previous one.

Now that we are more than 10% into it, our use of 21st Century in terms of learning, education, schools, pedagogy now needs to cease. We can’t keep using it forever. One eighth of the 21st Century is behind us, it is time to move on.

Over the past 12 months I have been resisting using the term when I speak or write, yet succumbing from time to time as it succinctly describes what we are talking about.

21st Century learning

or

Pedagogy that has been designed with the current and future needs, passions and opportunities of the student deliberately embedded in both the learning activities and the environment in which they happen.

It has been particularly helpful to describe a number of areas:

  • the non-industrial era school
  • opportunities that web 2.0 brings
  • learning that is personalised to an individual student
  • collaborative and highly relational learning
  • the way teachers need to work to engage students
  • learner centred/driven pedagogy
  • prioritising student engagement
  • set of essential skills
  • helping students take personal responsibility for their learning
  • creativity and innovation in education

We could call it 3rd Millennial Learning or Future-focused Learning – but a catchy tag, still implies that it is still something different from the norm.

If we need a descriptor, then maybe all we need is ‘authentic’. By authentic I mean that the educational experiences and environment value engagement, relevance and meaning beyond just what the teacher, curriculum, government says the student needs to learn.

Authentic carries with it a deeper sense of being true to one’s self.

The key elements of authenticity recognise that the present and the future are vastly different from the past and include:

  • the dynamic period in history we inhabit
  • the learning needs of young people
  • the opportunities that technology brings and will keep bringing
  • flexibility to adapt to change
  • equipping and supporting teachers to embrace change

Here is the challenge I am presenting myself:

I am choosing not to use the term ’21st Century’. I will just talk about schools, spaces, learning, pedagogy and educators in terms of the culture we live in. If I do need to differentiate, then my preferred descriptor will be authentic.

Will you join me?

@anneknock

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.” (Churchill) Rethinking spaces to learn & work

Churchill was well-known for his classic quotes at a time of crisis:

“We shall fight them on the beaches”

“Never Give In”

His humorous retorts:

Lady Astor: “If I were married to you, I’d put poison in your coffee.”

Churchill: “If I were married to you, I’d drink it.”

On the rebuilding of the House of Commons after the war he said:

“We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us.”

The traditional school building was originally shaped to meet the employment expectations of the first half of the 20st century. These buildings still seem to shape schools today, despite changes in the way we work.

So from time to time we must look up, look around and decide if this ‘shape’ still fits us and fulfils our purpose. The traditional construct of the school has shaped how we teach. Even when there is the opportunity to build a new school, the notional ‘shape of our buildings’, continues to define the activity that takes place within a school. We replicate the old shape.

Many workplaces, especially those with the means to resource best practice models, are providing places and opportunities for collaboration and connection. School education needs respond to this prevailing trend. Both at school and work, traditional spaces, for working and learning are the enemy of collaboration – encouraging people keep to themselves.

Collaborative workplaces are characterised by openness, deliberately providing opportunities for sharing information and generating ideas, in a context where staff feel engaged, included and motivated. In designing these spaces the open floor area is an expanse to be designed with traffic flow systems considered. There are spaces developed for different working styles and activities along with colour and design to create individuality and character.

A number of corporate workplaces are now designing their spaces their new spaces around the concept of ‘Activity Based Work’ (ABW). Emerging from the corporate sector in the Netherlands, it is an approach to work that has increased productivity and collaboration:

  • We work in parallel
  • We do things collaboratively
  • We can work anywhere

ABW environments are becoming ‘device agnostic’ and encourage and enable the traditional departmental silos to talk to each other. Staff are completely mobile, offices in use 24/7, there are no assigned spaces and personal belongings are kept in lockers. Collaboration and interactivity has been found to increase with ABW.

The tri-foci of ABW is:

  • human resources
  • technology
  • physical space

It is no different for schools. Tri-foci of reshaping schools

1. Human resources (staff and students):

  • How do we support staff to work in new ways?
  • When building new spaces, what work is undertaken prior to occupancy to help change mindsets?
  • How does the activity of learning need to change?

2. Technology:

  • Who is making technology decisions in your school?
  • Does the infrastructure enable movement, flexibility and productivity?
  • Is ICT seamlessly and almost invisible, or is it still about ‘whistles and bells’?

3. Physical space

  • What do the learning spaces say about your culture and values?
  • Are there walls and structures that can be eliminated?
  • Does the furniture and the spaces cater for different working styles and activities, for collaboration and for physically appealing environment?

We need a commitment to continually shape and reshape spaces for working and learning. In our work at  SCIL, we are regularly contacted by architects who want to inspire educators to change, or educators who want their architects to think differently about what a school looks like today.

@anneknock

Inspiration for this post came from:
Indesign: The future of the Workplace
Issue 50. 2012

Libraries for today and tomorrow: How is yours RELATIONAL, AUTHENTIC, FUTURE-FOCUSED, PERSONALISED, CREATIVE?

How does a school ensure that it is significantly resourced to provide for the learning and research needs of students, yet maintaining the relevance of the library? Learning communities need to have:

The ‘place’ that fulfils the need for communal work, learning, connection and play

Accessibility to resources

Personnel to manage the collection

A realistic view of books

Rather than arbitrarily dismantling the library and tossing out the books, how do you determine the future of the library? What we value is reflected in our decisions. Here five words, we use to filter for 21stC thinking in education:

RELATIONAL | AUTHENTIC | FUTURE-FOCUSED | PERSONALISED | CREATIVE

Recently, I was with a group of educational and architectural professionals on a site tour of a shiny new senior high school within a developing satellite urban centre. The school is located in the heart of the retail/business area, sharing facilities with the community. In the library I watched as an older gentlemen replenished his fiction supply for the coming week, and considered the timeless value of fiction and other narratives. Then I noticed a book on display. What made someone think An Introduction to Email was an inspiring book to display on the library shelf?

Written in 2000, it had helpful chapters like “How to send an attachment”. A children’s book about email? It was a stark reminder of how we need to think deeply about books, what’s valuable and how we access them, and what’s unnecessary.

In my travels over the last few years I have visited a number libraries. In particular:

  • DOK, Delft
  • TU Delft
  • The Idea Store, Whitechapel (London)
  • Vittra School, Stockholm

These libraries each displayed certain characteristics, clear about their values. DOK is a community library in Delft in the Netherlands who say “we do locally what Google does globally”. In the same city, TU Delft is a strikingly designed university library, that has created different types of spaces and places to work and learn. The Idea Store is in Whitechapel in London and, like DOK, is creating a place for the community. The people were working together, working alone on their computers and hanging out in the cafe on the top floor with a great view of the city.

View from the cafe on the top floor

When we visited Vittra School in Stockholm, the city ‘required’ that the school had a library – they came up with a space for the small book collection in the school.

In our communities we need places where people can meet, work, learn, read, be comfortable and belong. Being surrounded by books can create the aesthetic ambience we like. Fiction and biographies maintain popularity as paper-based books. A great fiction collection is essential but there are many non-fiction books that seem to be only shelf-fillers.

DOK is a central place in the community.

As I watched the older gentleman borrow his books I imagined him spending his time engrossed in the adventures contained within.

The wall of books.

Are there creative solutions for storing books, but opening up spaces for people? In the TU Delft library the book stack creates an entire wall, four levels up, accessed by stairs – it’s visually striking and useful. The books are available and easily accessible, and the space is freed up for the people.

As SCIL we have distilled today’s context for learning to five concepts: Relational, Authentic, Future-focused, Personalised and Creative. These are the filter for learning, They can equally apply to libraries.

Relational: It’s a place where people connect, create the atmosphere. People first.

Authentic: If books are out of date and no longer used, make the big decision.

Future-focused: Think about Borders. Concurrently assess the current user needs and while simultaneously looking ahead to the future trends

Personalised: Does the community feel like this is a place where they belong? Consider the DOK mantra: “we do locally, what Google does globally”?

Creative: Is there a buzz? People work in different ways and spaces can create the vibe for create and meaningful work

In the early 80’s I commenced my career in education as a teacher-librarian in a primary school. Libraries still have a place, it’s just different now.

@anneknock